Pvt. John Marvin Steele, famous for his landing on the church steeple in Sainte-Mere-Eglise on June 6, 1944 was part of a group of paratroopers from F-Company, 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment that had the misfortune of landing in the town square of Ste Mere Eglise, France in the early morning hours of June 6th 1944. Sainte Mere Eglise was the first town liberated in Europe as the Allies landed on D-Day.
In the early hours of D-Day, the 505 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the famed “All American” 82nd. Airborne Division was assigned to drop near the town of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, to cut off the German retreat from the beachhead landings. This was some five to six hours before the beach landings of the allied forces. The orders had been changed twice due to a great concentration of German troops and uncertain weather conditions and Steele found himself landing directly over a town of German infantry. He was shot in the foot as his parachute lines fouled on the church steeple. He dropped his knife trying to cut his way out and decided he might survive if he played dead. He was cut down by the Germans and some hours later and taken to an aid station. Several days later he managed to escape to a US tank corps unit.
Twelve men of F-Company were killed, wounded or captured as they parachuted into the town square while Private Steele watched while he hung from the church steeple.
John Marvin Steele was born in Metropolis, IL in 1912 to Captain John & Josephine Lynn Steele. Capt. John was a riverboat captain on the Mississippi River. Marvin, as he was called at home, was one of seven children. Three of the boys served in WWII and brother Norman "Short Dog" Steele was killed in Germany only weeks before the cease fire. Brother James "Oney" Steele was with the Marines and fought in the long island campaigns of the South Pacific. He was seriously wounded and spent some time in the hospital.
John was the oldest man in F-Company at age 32. He was the company barber and a likeable guy. Many of these men were still in their teens. And as with all of the Airborne troops, they were Volunteers. The Best of the Best.
John participated in six campaigns in the European, African and Middle Eastern Theatres, including participating in the Battle of the Bulge. He made four combat jumps in Sicily, Italy, Normandy and Holland.
John Marvin Steele died from cancer at the VA Hospital in Fayetteville, NC on May 16, 1969 at the age of 56. He is buried at the Masonic Cemetery in Metropolis, IL.
He is survived by one daughter, Martha and many nieces and nephews.
A special "Thank You" to the Metropolis, IL Chamber of Commerce for much of this information.
Prepared by; Jim Blankenship
President-Family & Friends of
The 505 Regimental Combat Team
82nd. Airborne Division USA
John Marvin Steele (left) and his brother Norman Steele
F companys' 60MM mortar squad, probably just before D-Day at camp Quorn.
John was the only one of the four to survive the war.
John Marvin Steele (Standing) and George Ziemski
These link to pdf files and images that have not been resized.